Day 4 – Stranger Love

Matthew 2:13-23

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

Why do people leave their homes and move to unfamiliar places?  Historically, there have been surges in immigration during times of famine, war, environmental disasters, and persecution.  People move when their survival at home is threatened.  Jesus’ family moved across the border to Egypt to escape political violence.  And later Joseph moved his family to Nazareth in Galilee because he perceived it to be safer than Judea. In both cases, Joseph relocated when he sensed that his family’s survival was threatened.

Today, refugees endure a multi-year vetting process before being allowed into the United States, and for Syrian refugees, the process can take longer–even though we know the threat of death is real!  It is unlikely that Joseph (and Mary and Jesus) would pass the current vetting process to gain entry as refugees or to be given asylum.  Picture the interaction:

UN Representative: “Sir, why are you seeking refuge in the US?”

Joseph: I was told in a dream that my son is in danger of being killed.”

UN Representative: I’m sorry. Dreams are not considered credible evidence. Next!”

If Joseph were to enter the U.S. today, he would likely have to come in as an undocumented immigrant making Jesus, ironically, a ‘Dreamer’ (alien minor).

Question for Reflection:

What do you think God wants us to learn from Jesus’ experience as a refugee and an immigrant?

Nothing will be posted on Sunday, March 5.

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2 comments

  1. I see more and more how Jesus widened the circle of who’s “in.” Sometimes it’s because he’s identifying with a particular crowd, like refugees and immigrants, because he had a similar experience. If, as we’ve talked about, our life experiences have shaped our view of immigrants and refugees, then Jesus’ family experience would have shaped his.

    I also think it’s a reminder of how we don’t know who or what an immigrant or refugee will become. Only a few people in Jesus’ life would have known his true identity at the time when his family was fleeing. What might the future hold for a refugee or immigrant we welcome in this country? What potential might be realized if a Syrian child lives instead of dies?

    I’m increasingly frustrated that people dismiss the idea of Jesus as a refugee.

  2. I agree that Jesus was a refugee, and that Christians should support the rights of refugees. This may not be directly related, but I want to share it with my spiritual community. I believe that part of loving strangers is learning to appreciate other faiths. These verses are from “The Bodhisattva’s Way of Life”, a sacred text by the Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna. But they are also Gospel:

    May the naked find clothing
    The hungry find food
    May the thirsty find water
    And delicious drinks

    May the poor find wealth
    Those weak with sorrow find joy
    May the forlorn find new hope
    Constant happiness and prosperity

    May all who are sick and ill
    Quickly be freed from their illness
    And may every disease in the world
    Never occur again

    May the frightened cease to be afraid
    And those bound be freed
    May the powerless find power
    And may people think of benefiting one another

    May all travellers find happiness
    Everywhere they go
    And without any effort, may they accomplish
    Whatever they set out to do

    May those who sail in ships and boats
    Obtain whatever they wish for,
    And having safely returned to the shore,
    May they joyfully reunite with their relatives

    May troubled wanderers who have lost their way
    Meet with fellow travellers
    And without any fear of thieves and tigers,
    May their going be easy, without any fatigue

    May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wildernesses –
    The children, the aged, the unprotected
    Those stupefied and the insane –
    Be guarded by beneficial celestials . . .

    May all lower life-forms in the universe
    Take rebirth in higher forms
    May the lowly obtain grandeur,
    And may the proud be humbled

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